Keeping Produce Fresh - SailNet Community
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Keeping Produce Fresh

My question relates to food storage. I've heard that vegetables can be treated in a chlorine-and-water solution to keep them fresher longer. How much chlorine should I use per gallon of water and how should the vegetables be food stored once treated? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Mark Matthews responds:
Thanks for the question. Cheap, unscented chlorine can be used in a variety of ways on board a cruising boat, including battling mold and mildew, in laundry, purifying water, and as you mention, for disinfecting fruits and vegetables. Soaking produce in a solution of 1/8 cup to 1/2 gallon of water will help it last longer, and will work as a deterrent to keep bugs from coming aboard as stowaways. However, if your produce starts tasting like clorox, you’ve overdone it.

Once you’ve washed your produce, care should be taken to ensure that it isn’t needlessly jostled and that it stays dry—not always an easy task aboard a pitching and sometimes wet sailboat. A lot of how you store your provisions will have to do with where you’re sailing as well as whether you’re using refrigeration or ice. If you’re in the vicinity of the civilized world, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to stock the boat to the gills with fresh produce. If you’re headed for more remote areas, though, that's a different story.

First, keep in mind that a number of fruits and produce do just fine without ice or refrigeration. If you decide to keep things cold, make sure they stay that way and that you don’t run out of ice or freon halfway through your trip.

If you have neither of these luxuries and are about to provision, buy vegetables like tomatoes in a range of ripened states, eating the ripest ones first. Eggs for example will keep a lot longer if they don’t swing through temperature extremes. Fresh eggs that haven’t been refrigerated will last longer than those that have been refrigerated and then left at ambient temperatures. Onions, potatoes, and carrots also have long shelf lives, provided they stay dry. Keep a sheet of damp paper towel over heads of lettuce to make them lasting longer. If you really want to get the most out of your lettuce, separate the individual leaves from the head, shake off the excess water, let them air dry or pat with a paper towel, and store them loosely in a sealed plastic bag or flat plastic container. Broccoli and cauliflower will last the longest if you cut the pieces off the stalk and place these in tupperware.

Also, you can consult cruising guides regarding the locations you'll be visiting to find out what kind of produce you can expect to get there and gauge your provisions accordingly. If you haven't seen them already, I’d refer you to several articles on our website for more information: Provisioning for the Caribbean by Kathy Barron and Stowing the Provisions by Beth Leonard, as well as the The Art of Ice-ing by Joy Smith. Best of luck to you.

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